Friday, October 31, 2008

Keyboard Pants... Really???

I used to wear Margarita panys from time to time. They are easier than keyboard pants to make. You just spill a full Margarita into your lap.

Via Trendhunter Via The Griff

Happy Halloween from the Sherman Foundation

Our side is (still winning.

My favorite Dean Can Dance track from "The Serpent and the Egg": The Host of Seraphim.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Non-Creative Consuming: Afghani Neck Wrap

I think the scarf trend in New York has fully infected the ranks of consumers that shop at places like Macy's, Talbot's and Duane Reade for their clothes. From hip-hop to housewives... men, women, straight, gay... it's everywhere. Amazing how New Yorkers will fall in line to be part of a trend.

Insipid. I'm not sure if it's the right word, but it's the one that comes to mind.

A suit of armor, for Bananas

I didn't know what to make of this at first but it really is just a plastic protective apparatus for your banana. Sold at the MOMA store.

Source... Kathleen of course.

Simpsons Gone Mad

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Biomimicry in Design: New Pepsi Bottle (with Wrinked Foreskin)

I clearly see the head of a penis with a collar of wrinkled foreskin. Aaaaa... the refreshing taste of a "new generation".

Links on the newly designed bottles and logos for Pepsi:

Pepsi Earnings Lose Fizz

Pepsi's New Logo A Bargain At Several Hundred Million Dollars

Pepsi, New Bottles

Reading Pictures: Levi's Outdoor Exposure

What is happening in this picture?

The model is exposing himself to us.

He sits on the corner of a car's trunk, legs slightly spread. His crotch is dead center of the image. A tarp, pulled up and tucked beneath his crotch reveals the car beneath, reinforcing and doubling the expression of "exposure". The position of the gathered tarp and exposed, protruding portion the the car draws further attention to his genital region and focuses energy into the image's center.

This is not a flirtatious exposure, but a menacing one, as is clear by the model's non-verbal expression. The fact that he is sitting on a car also has communicative significance. If the car belongs to someone else, it is an act of dominance and transgression. If it belongs to him it is a display of possession, of "owning".

It is no accident that the tarp is blue (jeans are blue) and the car red (the color of genitals flushed with blood).

Is it going too far to look for further connections between the car and sexualized behavior? Cars, in the context of advertising, are often fetishized sexual objects. Acts of indecent exposure often take place in modes of public and private transportation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama's Loss Traced to Thomas Sherman

Thanks (a lot) Kim

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Words to live by: "Figure it out!"

At an agency I worked at few years back, the head of our group called a coworker into his office. He sits him down, looks him in the eye and says, "if I ask you to do anything else for me in the next 6 month... you tell me to go fuck myself!"

There was a massive, live media event that our group was producing. A monster of a project. A logistical nightmare with lots of moving piece and lots of powerful players. Our boss wanted to make sure that this did not get fucked up. "I need you to go and figure it out... figure it out."

Here is Faye Dunaway (as Joan Crawford) dispensing the same advice.

Everyone remembers "no wire hangers" from Mommie Dearest, by my favorite is the scene where Joan Crawford addresses the Pepsi Co. board of directors after her husbands death.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just Don't Do it

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Stereotips: Gender and Voice Commands

"Stereotips", the name I give to useful pieces of advice based on ethnic, cultural, sociographic, psychographic or gender stereotypes.

Male voices are more effective for giving orders.

Female voices are more effective for the delivery of informational messages.

With regards to why certain messages are voiced by males and others by females, MTA spokesperson Gene Sansone said in 2006 that, "Most of the orders are given by a male voice, while informational messages come from females. Even though this happened by accident, it is a lucky thing because a lot of psychologists agree that people are more receptive to orders from men and information from women".[22]. For example, a 4 (NYCS) Bronx-bound train at a station would broadcast, "This is a Bronx-bound 4 express train. The next stop is 125 Street," with a female voice. Before the doors close, a male recording would then announce, "Stand clear of the closing doors please!"

NYC Transit Travelguide

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mattress Pattern Designs

I was walking down the street today and saw several mattresses waiting to be picked up by trash collectors. What gave me pause were the designs on them. That manufacturers take the time and expense to design and print ornamental patterns on mattresses is a little surprising, especially on the low end of the price point spectrum. After all, they are never really seen after purchase. The mattress is covered by a mattress pad, fitted sheets, sheets, comforters etc. That is until the day they get discarded and put out with the trash.

The patterns are, in a sense, a design feature that remains dormant for the life of the product and becomes activated and visible only when the product has outlived its usefulness. A display that draws attention only to the fact that it has an expired function and sits curbside, awaiting its removal and destruction.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Narrative: Country Music and the Cry Break

This is another post on one of my favorite obsessions, "non-verbal narrative expression" ("narrative" in things we don't normally think of as being narrative vehicles, things that embed narrative or express it indirectly).

This is about the "migration narrative" in the sound of country music.

The embedded audio excerpt below is taken from WNYC's Radio Lab from the episode titled: Pop Music. It frames country music as "migration music" and explores its phenomenal, somewhat inexplicable global appeal.

Did you know that Country-Western music is extremely popular with Australian Aborigines?

Dolly Parton is revered like a saint in Southern Africa.

Don Williams has filled Soccer stadiums in Zimbabwe.

Quotes pulled from the podcast embedded above:

Ignore the details and listen for the larger story which has to do with moving, with migration and with regret... you're lonesome for something and the thing you're missing is the old hometown.. "the green green grass of home"... therein, Fox says, you can boil much of this music down to just this feeling, you look, you long for something simpler, something you left behind.

According to U.S. census data, in 1927 the number of people living in urban areas (as opposed to agrarian and rural) exceeded 50%. "Country music really exploded, and this is not an accident, when most people no longer lived in the country. Country music is born when "the country" becomes a nostalgic idea."

One explanation for its popularity elsewhere is that even if you don't speak English the message is literally in the music itself, there is grammar here, in the vocalization, the singers, they actually make a croaky sound that is very distinctive... One of the principle vocal articulations is what country singers call a cry break

... and it's not just the voices... it's the instruments... the instruments seem to be crying. The steel guitar is the signature sound of country because it's recognized as iconic of a crying human voice... it's called the crying steel.

F is for Friday: Credit Crunch Humor

VIA the UK's Daily Mail: The best credit crunch jokes to have you laughing all the way to the bank.

Why aren't we in The States all over it like this? Where is the anger and the class resentment? Come on America! Here are just a few from the Mail's post, there are many, many more here.

What's the difference between an investment banker and a pigeon?
The pigeon is still capable of leaving a deposit on a new Ferrari.

What's the difference between an investment banker and a large pizza? The pizza can still feed a family of four.

You know it's a credit crunch when...
• The cashpoint asks if you can spare any change.
• There's a 'buy one, get one free' offer - on banks.
• The Inland Revenue is offering a 25 per cent discount for cash-payers.
• Gordon Brown has stopped chewing his nails and started sucking his thumb.
• Your builder asks to be paid in Zimbabwean dollars rather than sterling.
• Highgrove has been repossessed.
• Victoria Beckham is pictured shopping in Primark.
• Alistair Darling's eyebrows have turned white.

A lobbyist on his way home from Parliament is stuck in traffic. Noticing a police officer, he winds down his window and asks: 'What's the hold-up?' The policeman replies: 'The Prime Minister is so depressed he's stopped his motorcade and is threatening to douse himself with petrol and set himself on fire. 'He says no one believes he can get us through the credit crunch. So we're taking up a collection for him.' The lobbyist asks: 'How much have you got so far?' The officer replies: 'About 40 gallons, but a lot of people are still siphoning.'

Sexism and Phallic Symbols

A TV spot from the 60s featuring The Fabulous Adams Sisters for Muriel Cigars.

A TV spot from the 70s for Winchester Little Cigars.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On Musical Narrative: Over the Rainbow

One of the subjects that fascinates me is "narrative" in things we don't normally think of as being narrative vehicles, things that embed narrative or express it non-verbally or indirectly.

I've done a few posts on the subject "reading" images:
How to Read a Movie (Reading Pictures)

And narrative is fashion:
The Aesthetic Narrative of Ralph Lauren for Women

My essay on graphic design and style also covered the subject in some interesting ways:
As Stupid as a Graphic Designer: The Slippery Subject of Style.

Song lyrics are usually the component that conveys narrative meaning. For non-musicians the "music" is usually felt and not understood. (A good example of the two contradicting each other in pop music is REM's "One I Love", which is really a song about jilting someone, not a love song.)

This morning I listened to a great piece on NPR about the song "Over the Rainbow" written for the movie The Wizard of Oz in 1939 by Harold Arlen. 'Over The Rainbow,' From Kansas To Oz (What makes it so great)

Rob Kapilow explains what makes "Over the Rainbow" so great. He says that a lot of the song's success lies in its emotional landscape, derived from just two deceptively simple notes that travel from Kansas to Oz.

"One of the amazing things about the great songs of American Musical Theater is somehow, within 32 measures, they manage to tell a completely satisfying emotional narrative. And what's really amazing about that is since these songs are whats we call A-A-B-A, 8 measures, you do them again, you go away, you come back you do it a third time. The amazing thing is that its all staked on that one 8 measure idea that we hear over and over again, and there has hardly ever been a better 8 measure idea than the opening 8 of Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

There are two musical, "narrative" ideas that he discusses at work within the piece. The first is "leap" and the second is "circle and yearn".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Hear Empire Down!

October always brings out the Goth I keep harbored within but The Sisters of Mercey's "Lucretia" seems relevant in a larger cultural sense given all that is happening.

I hear the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Hot metal and methedrine
I hear empire down
I hear empire down

I hear the roar of a big machine
Two worlds and in between
Love lost, fire at will
Dum-dum bullets and shoot to kill, I hear
Dive, bombers, and
Empire down
Empire down

From The New York Times: Are We Rome? Tu Betchus!
As Seneca, the Roman Stoic who advised treating the body “somewhat strictly,” wrote in a letter: “Avoid whatever is approved of by the mob, and things that are the gift of chance. Whenever circumstance brings some welcome thing your way, stop in suspicion and alarm ...They are snares. ... we think these things are ours when in fact it is we who are caught. That track leads to precipices; life on that giddy level ends in a fall.”

For my Goth Princess, Kim. Thanks for the link.

Bomarzo Monster Park

Continuing the October theme: Bomarzo Monster Park

Northern Lazio is packed with things to do, yet travelers seldom think of it. Bomarzo, just south of vaunted Bagnoregio, hosts the Monster Park, which features sun-dappled works giving light to the dark mythological world of the "cinquecento" or the 1500s.

When Giulia Farnese died, her husband Prince Pier Francesco Orsini called upon architect Pirro Ligorio to create a "Villa of Wonders" in homage to her. (Orsini was called upon to complete St. Peters in Rome after Michelangelo died, and built the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, so he was no weekend tinkerer, to be sure.) Still, the park never seemed to catch on with the populace, and it remained relatively unknown until Giovanni Bettini bought it in 1954 and started to manage and restore it.

Link courtesy of Kathleen.

The Bible Redux (Styled like a fashion magazine with celebrity features: Angelina, Bono)

There seems to be no limits to the depths that celebrity culture will plunge and exploit. Bono should stop phoning in U2 records if he wants to have a positive effect on the world.

Passages are written out in a magazine-style format and accompanied by striking images. Jolie's picture is included alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and U2 frontman Bono, to illustrate the importance of doing good deeds. They were selected after the publishers asked the Swedish public which famous figures in modern times represented goodness and compassion.

Other images include a shirtless male model striding through the waves and a black-and-white close-up of a couple about to kiss.

See Also:
...Actors, Prostitutes and Lepers

Celebrity Shamanism and Gossip Mythology. Part 1: What is this really about?

Big thanks to The DMC for the link.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill

There is a new pet store and "charcoal grill" in New York's West Village.

Featured there are such oddities as

A leopard lounging on a tree tree branch in the window.

McDonald's Chicken McNuggets sipping barbecue sauce.

A rabbit putting on her makeup.

Breaded fish swimming in a large round bowl.

This curious attraction is actually the latest work of the artist Banksy. Although I think the execution of the piece is excellent, I have some problems with it. Location is the big one. Anything very interesting or "cool" in New York gets so overrun with visitors that its becomes impossible to have an enjoyable experience. I won't go to New York museums on weekends anymore.

Placing this small "piece" in New York's West Village (next to Sushi Samba of all places) intensifies that problem and is self defeating to the concept. Instead of being an inexplicable "thing" one stumbles across fortuitously it feels like a cheap New York attraction. There were so many people lined up to see it when I passed by last week that they had put up barricades and were only allowing a few people at a time close enough to take pictures of the windows and fewer to walk inside.

The piece also lacks the subversiveness of say the Guantanamo Bay Detainee that Banksy planted in Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride back in 2006. Maybe it's time for someone to start making "fake" Banksy pieces with real subversiveness again.

But hey, if you enjoy standing in lines with everyone else in New York, knock yourself out. Its on display until October 31st.

Why not throw your entire day away by walking a few blocks to Magnolia bakery and waiting in another ridiculous line for some very, very overrated cupcakes.

VIA The Wooster Collective

The Sedlec Ossuary

Today's earlier post on artist Kris Kuksi has inspired me to share some things with darker themes. Halloween is after all in 2 weeks.

A place I have always wanted to visit is The Sedlec Ossuary.

From Wikipedia: The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints (Czech: Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých) in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. The ossuary contains approximately 40,000-70,000 human skeletons which have been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.

Sterf (A site with some great images of the Ossuary)

Kris Kuksi

Being a fan of all things gothic, dark and baroque I was just blown away by the mixed media assemblage's of artist Kris Kuksi. Be sure to check out the high res images of his pieces. Amazing.

Kris will have a major solo exhibition in New York City opening November 22nd at the Joshua Liner Gallery located at 548 W. 28th Street Suite 334, New York NY.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Secret Lives of Great Artists

I just listened to the KERA podcast interview with author Elizabeth Lunday on her book The Secret Lives of Great Artists.
So many great, little-known facts about the lives of artists.

Matisse was pushed to become a lawyer by his father and out of boredom and frustration and would shoot spitballs at passerbys from the office window.

The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows.

Andy Warhol made an appearance on The Love Boat.

Elizabeth Lunday's The Secret Lives of Great Artists website.

Sketchy arm... squiggly lines

Ah Ha's "Take on Me" with lyrics replaced to describe literally the action in the video. F'in genius.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday School at The Sherman Foundation: On Losing Hope and Control

In college, we had to read about people shown pictures of gum disease. These were photographs of rotten gums and crooked, stained teeth, and the idea was to see how these images would affect the way people cared for their own teeth.

One group was shown mouths only a little rotten. The second group was shown moderately rotten gums. The third group was shown horrible blackened mouths, the gums peeled down, soft and bleeding, the teeth turned brown or missing.

The first study group, they took care of their teeth the same as they always had. The second group, they brushed and flossed a little more. The third group, they just gave up. They stopped brushing and flossing and just waited for their teeth to turn black.

This effect the study called "narcotization."

When the problem looks too big, when we're shown too much reality, we tend to shut down. We become resigned. We fail to take any action because disaster seems so inevitable. We're trapped.

Chuck Palahniuk in the essay Dear Mr. Levin (Stranger than Fiction. 2005)

From NPR:
Study: 'Lack Of Control' Plays With Our Minds

Humans are always looking for patterns in the world around us. Anthropologists say superstitions are most common among people who feel that their lives depend on things that are beyond their control. They point to Pacific islanders who fish out on the open ocean, for example, or baseball pitchers.

A report published Thursday in Science supports a link between feeling a lack of control and believing in illusions and conspiracies.

Report author and researcher Jennifer Whitson, who teaches at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, says she started by thinking about cases in which people saw patterns that weren't really there.

"As kids, you look up in the sky, and you say, 'Oh, that cloud is shaped like a dog, like a hat,'" says Whitson.

Other times, people's illusions have higher stakes — "whether it was vast worldwide conspiracies that did not exist, making superstitious connections or trends in the stock market that didn't exist," she says.

Whitson thought that a reason lots of people see patterns that aren't there might be this lack-of-control feeling. And she devised an experiment to test the idea.

She recruited volunteers and tried to induce in half of them the feeling of powerlessness. One device was a rigged intelligence test, conditioned to make the group feel a lack of control.

"No matter how hard they tried, half the time they were told they were correct, and half the time they were told they were incorrect; there was no correlation with their actual correctness," she says.

In another approach, Whitson asked the volunteers in the lack-of-control group to relive times when they felt powerless; for instance, they were to imagine or remember being in a car accident when they weren't driving.

The remaining volunteers got to experience the opposite: a feeling of control.

Whitson tested them to see whether those who were in a mental state of lacking control were more likely to see patterns where none existed.

In fact, they were.

"We literally found people seeing images in static — they were given pictures that were just pure noise, like static on a television set — and we had those who felt that they lacked control saying that they saw significantly more images," she says.

Listen to the NPR interview with Jennifer Whitson

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Self Preservation: 12 Year Old McDonald's Hamburger

What does a 12 year old McDonald's Hamburger stored in tupperware look like? It looks exactly like it did 12 years ago.

A woman named Karen Hanrahan who teaches a workshop titled Healthy Choices for Children uses this to show parents the true nature of what children are eating when they eat fast food.

1996 McDonalds Hamburger

This is a hamburger from McDonalds that I purchased in 1996.
That was 12 years ago.
Note that it looks exactly like it did the very day I bought it.
The flecks on the burger are crumbs from the bun.
The burger is starting to crumble a bit.
It has the oddest smell.